Best practices for lift gate delivery

Learn the common pitfall of offering lift gate delivery and the popular strategies of how to deal with it.

Some of Eniture Technology's LTL Freight Quotes products have a setting that permits lift gate delivery to be offered as an option. Those that don't will have the setting added in the near future. Before enabling the setting you should familiarize yourself with the reasons some merchants consider it to be risky and what they do instead.

Some online stores avoid offering lift gate delivery as an option because shoppers sometimes:

  • don't understand what it is;
  • don't understand when they need it;
  • intentionally leave it unselected to avoid the fee which can exceed $100.

You can be faced with some expensive choices if you rely on your online shoppers to identify when a lift gate is required for delivery. Consider the following example:

  • A customer placed an order and selected the option for LTL Freight at a cost of $200. He had the option to choose LTL Freight with lift gate delivery for $300 but decided against it because he wasn't sure what it meant. He was interested in the lowest possible shipping rate.
  • You processed the order and honored the selection made by your shopper. The order was shipped LTL Freight and the need for lift gate delivery was not specified.
  • The LTL freight carrier picked up the shipment and delivered it to the destination terminal who subsequently determined that a lift gate would be required to make the delivery.

At this point the LTL freight carrier won't deliver the shipment. If the carrier is following industry standard practices it will contact you - the shipper - to get authorization for the additional charges for lift gate delivery. You now have three choices:

  1. Authorize the charges for lift gate delivery and hope you can collect it from your customer later.
  2. Authorize the charges for lift gate delivery knowing that you won't collect the charges from the customer. In this case you're out $100.
  3. Ask the carrier to return the shipment to you. In this case the carrier will charge you $200 for the return shipment.

Although the first choice gives you a chance to recover the cost of lift gate delivery, it seldom works out. The customer usually refuses to pay the additional charges and sticks the merchant with the consequences. Be prepared for some unexpected expenses if you will be relying on your customers t0 identify the need for lift gate delivery

Is it always a bad idea to give your online shippers the option for lift gate delivery? That depends on the characteristics of your customer base. Commerical customers are less likely to make mistakes regarding lift gate delivery. Residential customers are more likely to make mistakes. Ideally you want to give your commercial customers a choice, and require it for residential customers.

Popular strategies for how to offer lift gate delivery

Always include lift gate delivery in your quotes.

You can choose to always include the lift gate delivery fee in all of your quotes. If your orders ship exclusively to residential addresses this may be a good approach. But be prepared to lose out on the occasional order to commercial addresses. Commercial enterprises are usually pretty savvy when it comes to freight and will recognize when quotes are high.

Offer a choice to commercial addresses and require if for residential addresses.

The LTL Freight Quotes products have the ability to automatically detect residential addresses. The feature works only for addresses in the United States and is available as part of a subscription plan or as an add on plugin depending on the eCommerce platform. When you have access to the residential address detection feature you can offer lift gate delivery as an option to commercial addresses and require it for residential addresses. This keeps your shipping quotes low for commercial customers and protects you from surprises when the receiving address is residential.

Offer lift gate delivery as a choice to commercial and residential addresses.

You can offer lift gate delivery as a choice to both commercial and residential addresses. This gives your customer the most flexibility but is prone to mistakes that can cost you money as illustrated by the example provided. If you ship to customers in Canada, this can be your best option since there isn't a reliable source to use to identify commercial versus residential addresses. If you choose this option, make it a practice to verify the delivery address before you ship the order. Better to lose an order before you ship it than incur a loss after it leaves your dock.

Average the cost of lift gate delivery across all orders

One alternative is to add a prorated the lift gate delivery fee to all your orders. If 25% of orders require lift gate delivery and the lift gate fee is $100, then add a handling fee of $25 to each order. The handling fee will be collected on every order, and on average the funds for the lift gate fees incurred will be covered. Stores that use the prorated approach should review the handling fee regularly and adjust it accordingly.